Efforts under way to revive N.Korea nuclear talks
TOKYO, Apr 10: Diplomatic efforts to revive six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear arms programme gathered steam in Tokyo today, but prospects for a key meeting between US and North Korean negotiators were unclear.
Christopher Hill, Washington's top envoy to the talks, reiterated upon his arrival in Tokyo that Pyongyang should return without preconditions to the negotiations, which have been stalled since November.
''They ought to come back to the six-party talks without any conditions,'' Hill told reporters. ''I think the six-party talks are in their interest.'' Hill also said he had no plans at the moment to meet North Korea's chief delegate, Kim Kye-gwan, who is also in the Japanese capital to attend a private security forum.
Asked if he was planning any bilateral meetings with the North Koreans, Hill said, ''I am not planning to request a bilateral meeting, and to my knowledge they have not requested it either.'' Speculation has been growing that Kim and Hill would meet on the sidelines of the security forum and manage to create the momentum for resuming the six-way talks, which are aimed at preventing a nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula.
A diplomatic source told Reuters that Hill might meet Kim later on Monday, although South Korea's chief negotiator, Chun Yung-woo, said earlier he thought chances of a bilateral meeting were slim.
North Korea's Kim, for his part, told reporters, ''It would be a good thing if we can meet. We will have to see.'' Asked whether there would be conditions for meeting his American counterpart, he said: ''Why would there be conditions to hold a meeting?'' China's envoy to the six-way talks, Wu Dawei, met Japanese counterpart Kenichiro Sasae today morning and then met the North's Kim, diplomatic sources said.
Diplomatic sources said there would be a three-way meeting of South Korea, the United States and Japan later today. The three-way meeting and various bilaterals were taking place on the sidelines of a ''track-two'' private security forum bringing together officials and academics.
Susan Shirk, research director at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, University of California at San Diego, which is sponsoring the forum, told the opening session: ''As a track-two body, we are not a substitute for the official six-party talks...although we are pleased to be able to support the six-party talks with intellectual ideas and clearing up of misunderstandings.'' The six countries agreed in September that North Korea would end all nuclear programmes in return for aid and a promise for security and better diplomatic ties.
But the last session in November, aimed at devising a plan to implement that deal, yielded no progress.
North Korea has said it would be unreasonable to resume the talks until Washington ended a crackdown on firms it suspects of aiding Pyongyang in illicit activities, such as counterfeiting US currency and money laundering.
The talks involve the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, Russia and China.